MLS teams know full well what Blas Perez is capable of. Now, Bolivia do too.
Perez scored a brace that included an 87th-minute winner to push Panama past Bolivia, 2-1, in their Copa America Centenario opener on Monday. The Vancouver Whitecaps' forward had scored 11 minutes into the physical and rainy Group D game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida, but needed to find the back of the net again late to lift his nation to victory.
Juan Carlos Arce scored an equalizer for Bolivia in the 54th minute, pouncing on a poorly-headed clearance and smashing a shot past former LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. The Panamanians had the last laugh, however, as Perez got on the end of a low cross and slotted a shot home in the final moments of the match.
The win places Panama in first place of their group with three points. Argentina and Chile, the other teams in Group D, meet later on Monday.
- 11’ – PAN – Blas Perez (Alberto Quintero)
- 54' – BOL – Juan Carlos Arce
- 87' – PAN – Blas Perez (Abdiel Arroyo)
- Full box score
- POWERFUL PEREZ: Blas Perez did more than just get on the end of a pair of crosses to help Panama pick up three points. The veteran striker was active throughout the game, especially in the first half, and was involved in several of his nation's most promising sequences. He was aggressive with the ball and unafraid to try to fire it on frame, finishing with six shots on four on target. His two-goal performance makes him the current Golden Boot leader at the Copa America Centenario.
- PHYSICAL ENCOUNTER: To say this game was chippy would be an understatement. Costa Rican referee Ricardo Montero called a total of 43 fouls in the mach and handed out seven yellow cards. Bolivia finished with 22 fouls and two cautions, and Panama had 21 fouls and five players were booked.
- HISTORIC VICTORY: The Panamanians will not soon be forgetting this triumph, as it came in their first Copa America game. The victory was also the CONCACAF nation's first against a CONMEBOL side in almost five years, snapping a 12-game run without a win. Panama's last win vs. a team from South America came on Aug. 10, 2011, when they, coincidentally enough, beat Bolivia, 3-1.
- Panama: Friday vs. Argentina (9:30 pm ET; FOX/UniMás/UDN)
- Bolivia: Friday vs. Chile (7 pm ET; FOX/UniMás/UDN)